With only three days until Melbourne City FC commences its 2015/16 Hyundai A-League campaign, we take an in-depth look at our Round 1 opponents – and last year’s Grand Finalists - Sydney FC.
A whisker away from A-League glory
The 2014/15 Hyundai A-League season was a campaign of three parts for Sydney, who raced out of the blocks under new coach Graham Arnold. A string of early injuries soon curtailed their blistering form in attack and saw the Sky Blues go on a barren four-match run without scoring a goal.
Rejuvenated after the Asian Cup break, Arnold’s men regrouped with aplomb, winning 11 of their last 14 matches, before stumbling at the final hurdle in a bitter 3-0 Grand Final defeat to Melbourne Victory.
Despite boasting an impressive unbeaten return of 34 points on the road last season, it was the Sky Blues home form which proved to be problematic, recording a mediocre total of 16 points – including only four victories – at Allianz Stadium.
New signings with big shoes to fill
The exit of marquee striker and A-League golden boot winner Marc Janko will prove to be a big blow for the Sky Blues, with the Austrian international terrorising A-League defences with 16 goals last season.
New marquee striker Filip Holosko provides a more versatile option up-front and with Bernie Ibini also leaving the club, the pressure will be on for the Slovakian international to score goals from the outset.
Former Serbia international Milos Ninkovic will provide the spark in the middle of the pitch alongside player of the season Milos Dimitrijevic, while former Central Coast Mariners duo Matt Simon and Zachary Anderson will link-up with Arnold once again to provide depth in attack and defence.
Inconsistent pre-season form
It has been a pre-season full of mixed results for the Sky Blues. Comprehensive wins over local sides Earlwood Wanderers, Macarthur Rams, Belconnen United and South Coast Wolves yielding an impressive 19 goals.
However Arnold’s men struggled against A-League opposition – conceding eight goals in losses to the Central Coast Mariners, Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United.
Last Time They Met
Sydney FC 0-1 Melbourne City FC, Allianz Stadium – Hyundai A-League Round 22.
With the Club’s finals hopes hanging in the balance, an 80th minute goal to James Brown saw Melbourne City FC pounce late to snatch a crucial 1-0 win at Allianz Stadium.
Despite netting 25 goals in their previous seven matches heading into the contest, Sydney were unable to find their way past a resolute City defence, with the Sky Blues squandering an opportunity to go to the top of the A-League table.
A season of redemption for Arnie
After warming to the pressure of managing Sydney FC with confidence in his first season, Arnold will be looking to go one step further in 2015/16.
With a style of play revolving around keeping possession and interchanging play, a second placed finish in the Hyundai A-League and Asian Champions League qualification proves the Sky Blues are heading in the right direction.
Despite the loss of key attacking players Janko and Ibini - who combined for nearly half of Sydney FC's goals last season - Arnold will be expecting nothing less than success in this second season at the helm.